An articulate, engaging explanation of what scientists now know about HIV and how the spread of AIDS might be controlled,...


VIRAL SEX: The Nature of AIDS

An articulate, engaging explanation of what scientists now know about HIV and how the spread of AIDS might be controlled, from a leading AIDS researcher. Viral sex, explains Goudsmit (Human Retrovirology/Univ. of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), is the ability of retroviruses such as HIV to reproduce sexually and thereby produce recombinant offspring that possess completely new characteristics, ones that enable them to compete and spread in a hostile world. This ability also raises the frightening possibility that HIV could mate with tumor viruses, specifically T-cell leukemia/lymphoma viruses, producing as offspring a new strain of retrovirus that causes both cancer and AIDS. Besides explaining HIV's complex inner workings, Goudsmit traces its family history back to simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in African monkeys and finds even more ancient roots in various nonprimates, such as cats. Viruses spread into any host that permits them to enter and replicate, and it is when they jump to a new host, as SIV did when becoming HIV, that recombinations are most likely to occur. Of course, Goudsmit points out, a recombination could produce a relatively harmless strain of HIV, but there's no evidence of this happening. Somehow, he says, we must manipulate the virus to push its evolution in the right direction. Meanwhile, he contends, we have the means to develop safe and effective vaccines. One interesting possibility he cites is putting a vaccine into food, thus facilitating delivery in the world's poorest and most threatened countries. Even if HIV is tamed or effective vaccines are developed, however, we are not home free. Goudsmit warns that there's a reservoir of microbes in monkeys and other rainforest animals that could pose an even greater threat in the future if we continue to disturb their environment. Alternately alarming and reassuring, but always engrossing.

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0195124960

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997